GENE HACKMAN


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Gene Hackman was born Eugene Allen Hackman in San Bernardino, California in 1930. He came from a broken home and at 16 he was arrested for shoplifting and joined the Marines in lieu of jail, and served for 4 1/2 years. He went to New York and had a series of crappy jobs, and then went to college on the G.I. Bill, studying journalism and TV production. Sometime around 1960 he decided he wanted to be an actor and joined the Pasadena Playhouse in California. He did terribly there, and he and a classmate were jointly voted "Least Likely To Succeed". That classmate was Dustin Hoffman, and they both dropped out and moved to New York to try to prove they could succeed as actors. The two of them hung out with Robert Duvall, and all three had little success. Hackman got some TV roles, but had to work at menial jobs to pay the bills, and he was working as a doorman for Howard Johnson's when he ran into a former teacher who said, "See Hackman, I told you you wouldn't amount to anything"! In 1964 he got the lead in Any Wednesday on Broadway, and the same year he got a supporting role in Lillith. Neither of those led to much, but in 1967 Warren Beatty, who Hackman had worked with in Lillith, cast him as his brother in Bonnie and Clyde, and although Hackman was nominated for an Academy Award, he still did not get much better roles. Hackman was sensational in I Never Sang for My Father in 1970, but it was his performance in The French Connection the following year which won him the Best Actor Oscar, and finally made him a star at 41! He made three movies the next year, including the big budget The Poseidon Adventure. In 1973 he made Scarecrow for Jerry Schatzberg opposite Al Pacino, and in 1974 he made The Conversation for Francis Ford Coppola, and both movies did poorly at the box office. Hackman later said that he thought both these movies were wonderful, and when they failed he decided he knew nothing about choosing movies, and he started to take anything he was offered, if the money was good! His next bunch of roles certainly reflect this decision, but even in bad movies Hackman's great talent shines. Along the way he has appeared in some really fine movies as well. In 1986, he starred in Hoosiers, to my mind the best sports movie ever made, and one of the best movies period! Some of his other movies include: Unforgiven (winner of the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film), I Never Sang For My Father (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film), Bonnie & Clyde (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film), and Mississippi Burning (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film). As of 2020, he is still alive at the age of 90!
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